[Updated September 2020]
Moreton Island is known as a haven for four wheel drivers, nature seekers, and those wanting to head out for family time. This treasure trove of bushland, lagoons and pure sandy shores is a 4WD-only domain that’s just waiting for you to explore. Not only does this island have a vast amount of beauty, but it also has preserved cultural sites. The island offers plenty of opportunities for adventure and relaxation for whatever type of getaway you’re after. If you feel like taking on 4WD tracks, whale watching, or taking a nice walk by the beach Moreton Island is the perfect place to go.
Emma & Guillaume showing you how they experienced the Island Vibes. Watch their adventures on Moreton Island.
credits: @emmaceolin & @guillaumecornetfilms
- Important 4×4 Driving Pointers-
- 1. Sand Driving
- 2. Tide Times
- 4. 4WD Permit
- 8. 4WD Options
- Top Things To Do
- 2. Sandboarding
- 3. Shipwrecks
- 4. 4WD Tour
- 2. Road Rules
- 3. Speed Limits
1. How to Reach Moreton Island?
2. Driving around the island
The entire island of over 240 kms is only accessible by 4WD. Because you will be driving on soft sand, we recommend 4WD vehicles with high clearance and low range function. Our recreational 4WD hire vehicles are great for any trip you might want to take on the island and we can always help you to pick out the best vehicle for what you need.
Along with the three townships located on the west side of the island, there are plenty of sandy beaches for you to take your 4WD on and explore.
The ramp from the ferry drops straight into the sand and you will need to be prepared to begin 4×4 driving as soon as you reach the island. Be sure to take your time when pulling off the ferry onto the sand to avoid getting stuck or sliding around when pulling off the ramp. Keep your vehicle aligned with other vehicles tracks as this will make it a smoother and more comfortable ride.
3.1. Sand Driving
As the entire island is sand only, it’s helpful to have an understanding of what is required for this type of driving.
Here are a few tips for sand driving:
- Watch for soft sand – Engage your locking hubs, select low gears and switch to 4WD on inland tracks and soft beach sand.
- When crossing a creek, never stop your vehicle midstream – Keep moving through the creek as long as it is safe otherwise your vehicle could sink or stall.
- Check your tyre pressure- We recommend bringing a tyre pressure compressor or renting it from us so that you can adjust your tyres as you go.
- Don’t panic if your vehicle bogs- Simply reverse out and try to drive forward again.
- Change speed gradually – Rapid breaking will push sand in front of your tyres, making it hard to keep moving.
- Keep your momentum – Keep up your speed especially when heading uphill to avoid getting stuck.
- Bring the right tools – A spare tyre, shovel, first aid kit and MaxTrax will help your trek run smoothly and safely
For a more in-depth look at sand driving check out our guide to safe beach driving.
Knowing the tide times is an important factor to consider when heading over to Moreton. The best time to travel is around low tide (two hours either side) when the beach is at its widest and sand at its hardest. As a general rule, avoid driving two hours on either side of high tide.
Remember not to stop your vehicle in a creek bed and check for hardness of the sand before crossing. You can check the tide and weather conditions by clicking on the Moreton Island condition report in this link.
It has been a standard practice by 4WD enthusiasts to reduce tyre pressure while beach driving. The reason for this is it increases the size of the footprint of the tyres on the sand resulting in the weight of the vehicle spreading across a larger area. By spreading the weight, the tyres are more likely to drive over the top of the sand rather than digging down into it and causing the vehicle to get bogged. The increased footprint will also increase traction. According to an article by RACQ and specifications by Cooper Tyres tyre pressure for sand driving can be between 18-26 psi.
Please note: there are risks associated with lowering the tyre pressure and often the reduced tyre pressures for varying terrain are below the vehicle manufacturers recommendations. The lowering of pressure below the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations is at your own risk and in some instances can cause insurance claims to be void. To minimise the risks while driving with reduced tyre pressures it is advisable to reduce speed, drive slowly over obstacles and do not make any harsh turns which could result in the tyres coming off the rims. Always re-inflate to proper levels when the vehicle is back on a hard surface.
At FleetCrew we have recovery packages available for hire with your 4×4 hire. The recovery package includes a Tyre Pressure Compressor (used to change tyre pressures up and down), a set of MaxTrax (a handy recovery device) and a shovel.
Before driving on the island, a vehicle access permit needs to be purchased and displayed on your vehicle’s windscreen. If you are looking for monthly or yearly permits, they are available and need to be attached to the left side of you vehicles windscreen. You can buy your permit online or from over the counter offices.
3.5 Moreton Island Map
Stock up groceries and fresh water before your arrival. However, if you need to pick up some groceries once you get there, you can pick up a large range of items at the shops on the island, but they are expensive!
Castaways Store – Provides grocery items such as fruit and veggies, ice and fuel.
Lucky 7 Resort Shop – The Tangalooma Resort Shop has chemist items, groceries, bait, clothes and more (this is for Tangalooma guests only).
Kooringal General Store – Provides fresh seafood, meats and more.
There is no longer a petrol station on Moreton Island. To fuel your vehicle you will need to bring over your own petrol. If you want to buy it on the island, Bulwer General Store sells it in 20L drums only. The best advice is to fill up at the port of Brisbane service station before you get on the barge and if you have a decent 4WD vehicle you should have plenty in the tank to explore the island for a week.
3.7 4WD Tracks Guide
A general guide to tour Morton Island and see some of the main sights such as Yellow Patch, Big Sandhills and The Desert:
- Once you arrive on the beach, you can head north and you will see Middle Road – Middle Road links Western and Eastern beaches via two one-way tracks.
- The drive north is broken by high tide access tracks that pass Cowan Cowan and Cravens Creek.
- If you exit the beach at Bulwer, there is a shop and some holiday shacks available for rent.
- As you travel further north, the main track divides and from this intersection the track moves east through heathlands where you can explore the northern shoreline and lighthouse.
- The next major intersection is Bulwer-Blue Lagoon Road that provides direct access to Eastern Beach.
- The route continues in a north-easterly direction passing Five Hills Lookout (this also leads to a 15 minute walk towards the top of a large sand dune where you can spot views of Heath Island).
- Next on the route is Yellow Patch, a sand blow that is coloured a rich dark yellow.
- From here you can head to the popular tent based camping area at North Point.
- The route then heads to the Eastern Beach scaling a large sand dune. Camping and fishing are permitted along the beach south of Spitfire Creek towards Mirapool (Blue Lagoon is a popular camping pick).
- From this point, head 1.3 km south to the Bulwer-Blue Lagoon Road that leads west for 1.3 km to a lookout over Honeyeater Lake.
- From here, the junction is a straight beach drive south to Eagers Creek and Middle Road (camping is also permitted along this area).
- 6 kilometres south of Middle Road, there is a long beach drive to the Rous Battery Walking Track.
- Located four kilometres further is Little Sandhills which is a place known for its sand tobogganing down 90 metre sand hills.
- To continue on, you can head to Mirapool Lagoon near the southern tip of the island, which is a wading bird and fishery habitat.
- From this point you then can backtrack around the beach and take the inland route.
- On the inland route you can head towards Kooringal which is located on the western side of the island and stop for drinks, food or a picnic.
- From Kooringal the route travels north through low foreshore flats (only passable at low tide).
- The trek then comes to the Big Sandhills that rise over 80 metres above sea level.
- Once you reach this point, the beach north of here can be impassable and this could require you to head back to Kooringal and back north the way you came.
- If you are able to pass this beach then you can do so and continue to exit at the southern end of Tangalooma Resort.
- From here, you can take the exit that leads you onto a route that turns east to visit The Desert – a large sand blow.
- The route then turns north to meet the Middle Road and will lead you to a short drive to the Western beach and The Wrecks.
As a 4WD is necessary for getting around the island, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is equipped with all it needs for your adventures. If you have any questions about which vehicle is best for you feel free to call us or contact us online by clicking here.
When hiring from our recreational 4WD fleet, there are additional options we can provide to make your preparation easier. These include MaxTrax, roof racks, shade awnings, shovels, compressors and rooftop capsules.
If you are planning a family trip to Moreton Island, take a look at our top three large family-friendly 4WD hire vehicles.
Tangalooma is an island resort offering a wide range of tours, daily activities and accommodation. From dolphin feeding to snorkeling and a sunset cruise, there is something for any type of getaway you are looking for.
If you feel like a bit of adventure, why not hop on to a waxed sand board and slide down a dune? To get started, head over to the Little Sandhills, Big Sandhills or The Desert for a sand tobogganing experience.
The Tangalooma wrecks are the most famous wrecks on Moreton Island. Also known as “The Wrecks,” these are ships that were deliberately sunk off the coast of the island. If you want to see these wrecks, you can either swim out to them or bring out your snorkel gear to explore the beauty of the sea life surrounding the area.
If you’re a novice four-wheel driver and would rather experience some of Moreton’s off-roading in more experienced hands, you can book a tour to show you around the island. Scenic and adventure commercial tours are available year round.
Tangalooma Wrecks and Flinders Reef are popular scuba and diving sites to see and experience some of the bright marine life off the coast of the island. For solely diving, Curtin artificial reef is also a popular choice.
There are many commercial tours available that can either be hired for one day or multiple day tours. These tours typically encompass a wide range of activities that are available on the island for an action packed experience. These are a good choice if you want to see a lot of the island in a short amount of time. The commercial tours often include activities such as kayaking, snorkeling and sand tobogganing.
The lighthouse is located on Cape Moreton where you will see a 360-degree view that stretches down to the east coast. Located on the northern point of the island, this is also a good lookout for whales, dolphins and other marine life.
Considered the highest coastal sand dune in the world, resting at 285 meters above sea level, this one offers another breathtaking 360-degree view. Here you can see the coastline spanning all the way from Sunshine Coast, across to Brisbane and south to the Gold Coast. To get here, just follow the 4WD track along Middle Road heading north.
This is the biggest freshwater lake on the island. For a more relaxing experience, it is a perfect spot to venture to. Take a break and soak in the soft, tea tree infused waters.
The best time for whale watching on the island is to catch the humpback whales during their migration from June to November. Along with dolphins, sharks and turtles, you can see the sights of this magnificent wildlife by taking a tour. Tours run during the time of migration and you will get a chance to see whales feeding, breaching and splashing in the ocean.
Bats and gliders make up the majority of Moreton Island’s mammal life, along with a large range of reptiles spanning over forty species. Amongst this variety is a generous population of Green and Loggerhead Turtles. If you are keen to see the full range of wildlife, you can catch these migratory turtles that come to nest on Moreton Island between November and February.
If bird watching is one of your top priorities then catch the prime bird watching time on Moreton from the months of September to April. This is when many species migrate from other countries so it is a good time to visit the island if you’re looking for a more leisurely activity.
For a list of some other activities we recommend on the island have a look here.
There are five campgrounds on Moreton island and five camping zones located across the span of the beaches. If you are looking for additional information on camping while on Moreton click here to see the Queensland Government’s page on each of the 10 places to camp. On this site you will also find maps of the campsites and island.
Whether you are looking for a luxurious get away or something a little more moderate, there is a range of accommodation options available on the island. Tangalooma has hotels, holiday houses and villas.
Cowan Cowan, Bulwer and Kooringal holiday houses are also popular choices.
Want something in between? Glamping (Glamorous Camping) is an up and coming choice for stays on the island. This can be booked through commercial tour companies that operate on Moreton.
When loading your 4WD, be sure not to overload your vehicle and load it evenly with heavy items stored low – remember the weight and balance of a 4WD is considerably different than a regular car.
Similar road rules apply when driving on the island as they would in regular traffic. Here are a few important ones to keep in mind:
- All passengers are required to wear a seatbelt and you must be in the vehicle at all times when the vehicle is moving
- All vehicles must be registered with a permit on Moreton Island
- The same road rules apply on the island tracks, beaches and mainland
- All drivers must carry their license with them
- Keep left of all oncoming vehicles and traffic
- A speed limit of 20 km/hr applies at Bulwer barge landing area, North Point Beach and the beach in front of Comboyuro Point campground
- A limit of 30 km/hr applies in front of and between Ben Ewa and The Wrecks campgrounds and the landing areas of Reeders Point and The Wrecks
- And a speed limit of 60 km/hr applies on other areas of the beach and as assigned
As always, it is a good idea to be aware of the weather conditions and watch for assigned markings to ensure you’re going at a safe speed.
- When swimming in creeks or lakes, be sure to wash off any insect repellent as it is harmful to the endangered fish of the area.
- Generators are not permitted in developed campgrounds but can be used in the five camping zones.
- Only generators with a maximum of 60 dB can be used between the hours of 8:00 am and 7:00 pm.
For more safety information on recovery services, track conditions and general alerts, check out the Queensland Governments site here.
Here are a few useful items to keep in mind for recovery of your 4WD vehicle while on the island:
- Rated shackles
- Tyre pressure gauge
Keep in mind that the recovery of bogged vehicles is the responsibility of the driver.
Sand pegs, extra poles, ropes and torches – if you plan on camping don’t forget these extras.
Insect repellent – depending on the time of year sandflies and mosquitoes can be particularly noticeable.
Sunscreen – the sun can be extremely hot and depending on where you are venturing to, it may be that there is very little shade due to the large bare sand areas. In these cases the additional add-on of a shade awning to your vehicle hire could be helpful.
Extras and spares – extra fuel, water, tyres, tyre gauge and pressure pump, tow-rope and first-aid kit are all useful extras for your 4WD trip.
Firearms and fireworks – these are not permitted in the recreation areas or the national park.
Whether you’re a new 4WD enthusiast, a seasoned driver or looking for a holiday escape, Moreton Island provides a range of exciting possibilities! If you do not own a 4WD, it can be easy to hire a 4WD for your Moreton Island vacation.
FleetCrew is Queensland’s premier 4WD hire specialists. We have it all: the best tyres, large and specialised Toyota 4WDs, recovery gear and more! Along with unlimited kilometre allowances and numerous benefits, our vehicles have RACQ 24 hour breakdown assistance, so that you are never too remote- even in the most remote places. Feel free to check our 4wd hire FAQ page to know more about our services.
FleetCrew Office at Enoggera is just 25 minutes from the Micat Ferry. If you’re looking for an adventurous holiday and would like us to handle all the hassles of getting a 4WD ready for your trip, then let us know! We have a large fleet for hire at an exceptional value. We make sure you are prepped and ready to go when you hire a 4WD with us!
If you have any questions or concerns about hiring a 4WD vehicle or you’re wondering what to prepare before going off road, don’t hesitate to contact us.